FORT HOOD, Texas - With the holiday season just around the corner, the senior leadership with 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) helped jumpstart the joyous season during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Fort Hood Santa’s Workshop Nov. 7.
Santa’s Workshop is a nonprofit organization that originally began as a 13th Corps Support Command initiative in the 1990’s and, with its popularity, grew to an installation-wide program in 1998, serving Fort Hood soldiers and their families.
Last year, more than 1,600 families were supported – providing toys, games and books to more than 3,500 children. This year, families will be given appointments beginning Dec. 4 to shop Santa’s Workshop and have the opportunity to pick the two toys and book that their children would appreciate. Each family also picks out one board game per family which helps to promote family togetherness.
Santa’s Workshop is fully operated through volunteers donating their time to run the program’s operations and other outlets’ toy and funding donations.
“The success of Santa’s Workshop depends on the community; they’re the ones who help us do this program,” said Lisa West, president of Santa’s Workshop. “We’re just the administrators. Without the donations from the community and the soldiers, we would not be able to do this.”
The program is open to all soldiers and families of deployed service members regardless of rank, based on financial hardship and command referral through the individual’s command financial specialists.
“Many of our soldiers are experiencing unexpected financial difficulties, or even just making ends meet. Being able to shop here, and get the quality toys for their children, makes a world of difference for these families,” said West. “I helped one lady last year with her shopping and when she was finished she started crying and gave me a great big hug and said, ‘I never thought I could give my children a Christmas this year. Santa’s Workshop has made all the difference.’”
Although the program has grown larger than the 13th SC(E) footprint, the “Provider” soldiers still maintain a high level of involvement volunteering with the program leading up to the holiday seasons.
“I am exceptionally proud of 13th SC(E)’s involvement in this program,” said Brig. Gen. Clark W. LeMasters, Jr., the commanding general for 13th SC(E). “Who wouldn’t want to be associated with an organization whose mission statement reads, ‘Contribute to the advancement and improvement of the quality of life on the installation, and to make toys accessible to needy kids of Fort Hood and our families’?”
West echoed LeMasters’ comments while adding, “The support that we’ve received from the 13th SC(E) soldiers has been fantastic,” she said. “They’ve helped everywhere from assisting with the setup of Santa’s Workshop to helping haul five large pallets worth of toys off a delivery truck – and they’ve always shown up with a smile on their face and an eagerness to assist.”
LeMasters added a call to the leaders of Fort Hood, “If you’ve got a soldier out there, and you know they’ve got needs, ask them. There’s still ways to get them into this so they can get in and get their kids something. That’s what this thing is all about.”
The application deadline for families was Oct. 28; however, applications may still be accepted after the deadline on a case by case basis. Soldiers may contact their command financial specialists or www.swsforthood.com for additional information.